Sunday, 18 September 2016

Discover the Emerald Isle...

Fáilte go hÉirinn (Welcome to Ireland, pronounced <Fall-che go hair-inn>)
Ireland, the Emerald Isle has an abundance of hidden gems, you just need to know where to look. Despite being a lover of travelling I love coming home again to Ireland. The rolling green hills, coastal paradise of cliffs and sandy beaches bring a smile to my face as I fly in over Dublin Bay.

There is something so quintessentially Irish about the welcoming and homely feel you experience after touching down on Irish soil. There is no shortage of places to explore, everything from bustling cities to quaint countryside.
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I have been lucky enough to have visited almost every county in Ireland as the majority of my family holidays have been within Ireland.
Some of my favourite counties Include Donegal, Dublin and Wicklow to mention just a few. Donegal is where I have grown up and it is a county I still love going home to. Donegal is one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland in my very unbiased (of course) opinion! We really do have everything from beaches not unlike the Mediterranean coast to the highest sea cliffs in Europe.

As well as an abundance of coastal beauty Donegal is also known for its mountains, such as Errigal and the stunning Glenveagh National Park set in a glacial valley.
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If you’re the adventurous type there is more than enough to keep your adrenalin pumping while staying in Donegal. Go surfing in some of the best waves in the world. Surfers come from all over the world to surf the rip at Rossnowlagh and Tullan Strand outside Bundoran. Surf Co. is my go-to surf company for lessons and rental. They’re friendly and really good value. For the avid hikers there is no shortage of trails along the coast to Fanad lighthouse which is spectacular or through Glenveagh National Park or attempt climbing Errigal and witness the breathtaking views at the summit.
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Now for the inside scoop, as a coffee lover there is nothing better than finding coffee that is perfect every time, in Donegal the place to find that perfect coffee is The Counter in Letterkenny, which is the biggest town in the county where you will find all the chain stores as well as the longest Main Street in Ireland.

Just outside Letterkenny is the town of Ramelton home to the best ice cream and fizzy drink in the county. Whoriskey’s 99s are something to write home about and Football Special which is a locally produced drink are musts especially on a sunny day.
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There are so many little towns and villages in Donegal that have maintained their traditionally Irish feel and are full of Irish knit and tweed shops. Many of these are in what is called the Gaeltacht which is an area where Irish is still the native language of people there, so you could try a few phrases such as thank you, ‘Go raibh maith agat!’ (<Go row my-h ugg-it>). Another place to visit is Derry which is a bordering county where you’ll find lots of history surrounding Northern Ireland as well as a wonderful craft village.

Travelling south-east to Dublin, the heart of the country you will find more than enough tourist tours, attraction information that I don’t need to tell you about. I have lived in Dublin for the past year while at University and have grown to love the city life in contrast to my country life. Temple Bar is a must in Dublin, the atmosphere is wonderful and Irish traditional music can be found on every corner. Murphy’s Ice Cream shop is amazing. Despite having some unusual flavours such as Soda Bread and Guinness, their ice cream is fabulous!
For a really Irish pub, Doyle’s near Trinity College is my favourite spot, quite a cosy pub with old furnishings and great music.
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Dublin by night is magical!
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Circling back to coffee, you have to try F&B They have taken off where Bewley's on Grafton Street (the high street) used to be. A great buzz in here when you pop in for a coffee and always know it will be just what you needed!

Be adventurous when in Dublin and go off the beaten track. The Grand Canal is a very picturesque part of the city and is usually nice and quiet and an escape from the bustling city. If you follow the canal down to the dames, cross a few bridges you will stumble across the old Grand Canal sign that overlooks the docks and is quite a cool place to take photos.

For any history buffs out there Dublin is not lacking in fascinating exhibitions of Art, History and Architecture. Kilmainham Gaol is a must see for anyone interested in Irish history and our harrowing past.
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The Botanic Gardens are another lovely place for quiet meanderings and a breath of fresh air.
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A short DART (Dublin area rapid transport) journey away from Dublin is Wicklow, and my personal favourite town, Bray. Along the coastline, Bray in the sunshine is as beautiful as a south of France town.
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I was recently on holiday there and loved how small and accessible the town is. A walk along the waterfront is the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening. An early morning walk up Bray Head along the coast to Graystones and you will find well known YouTuber’s The Happy Pear café and veg shop. For a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or quick snack it is the perfect place for delish food at a great price, with locally sourced organic food and a wide selection of Vegan food available.

For a day out exploring in Wicklow, Glendalough is a must, whether you fancy a hike or a  stroll along the lake this is another beautiful part of Ireland that I visit time and time again.
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Top Tip -  While in Ireland a few ‘must have’ foods are the not so traditional Chicken fillet roll (baguette, breaded chicken and your choice of salad etc), Spudbox (featuring a baked potato with your choice of toppings) in MVP and Spicebag (chiecken, chips and veggies in a salt and chilli rub). Despite not being typically Irish they are a firm favourite amongst locals.

There is so much more of Ireland to discover, 29 other counties in fact, so be sure to come explore!


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